It didn’t take long for Vitor Belfort to decide his fate in the UFC middleweight title picture. Belfort withdrew from his title bout after the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted to ban testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT). Lyoto Machida will replace Belfort in the title match slated for UFC 173 on May 24.
The 36-year-old Belfort has always been open to his use of the TRT program. He has received exemptions for TRT in his last three fights. Each of those bouts took place outside of the United States. He won all three bouts (Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson) within the first two rounds.
Since making his return to the UFC in 2009, Belfort has only lost to then middleweight champion Anderson Silva and light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Other notable victories upon his return include Rich Franklin and an overweight Anthony Johnson.
Though the TRT ban caused Belfort to step to the side, it allowed Machida to step up to the plate for his title shot. With a 2-0 record at middleweight, Machida proved that the extra weight cut does not seem to bother his skills. The former light heavyweight champion made quick work of Mark Munoz in their bout in October, finishing him in the first round. In his most recent outing, Machida outpointed Gegard Mousasi in their five round bout two weeks ago.
Machida will be an interesting matchup for Chris Weidman. Shogun Rua was the only person who successfully solved the Machida puzzle (although Jones defeated Machida by submission). At 185 pounds, Machida looks even more elusive than he did at light heavyweight.
For Weidman, he is lucky this change came three months before the pay-per-view. He can now train for Machida’s style, which is 180 degrees different than Belfort. In some ways, he will be more dangerous for Weidman to deal with.